Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Curious Case of the Sunrise Holga

There’s been a bit of a buzz online recently about the reintroduction of the iconic piece of image-making plastic known as the Holga 120N camera. LA-based Freestyle Photo, for one, plans to have the camera available for delivery in a few months time (sometime in June/July).
But here’s the funny thing, you can order this camera right now on eBay. As a matter of fact, it’s been available for order on eBay for a few months now. And as an early adopter, I placed my order in late December 2016 from a Hong Kong seller and received the camera early in January.

The camera is now made by an entity called “Sunrise”. The label on the front of the camera above the lens now says “Holga 120N by Sunrise”. It sure looks like the original Holga 120N. And much like the original Holga, it comes with a couple of masks (for square and rectangular images), a strap and a lens cap that you should immediately throw away (or you’ll forget that it’s still on your camera after you’ve shot a couple of rolls of film). It even comes with a small instruction booklet for those who may just be beginning their Holga adventure.

I wish I could report that the camera actually works like an original Holga 120N. I tested it out by shooting one roll of B&W recently and, much to my surprise, nearly every frame had been struck by light somehow getting into the camera. Hmmm. I wasn’t really sure how this happened, so I persevered and shot another roll. For the most part, the results were identical. Perhaps a couple of good frames and several fogged frames. Ok, I thought. I’ll tape up every seam on the camera body and shoot yet a third roll. No luck. One good frame and eleven light struck frames.

The strange thing is the fogged frames don’t look like typical Holga light leaks where light gets in through the back of the camera and an imprint from the film paper backing shows up on your negative. This looks like the light is somehow entering the camera through the front, perhaps even through the lens/shutter area(?). I did watch the shutter fire several times and it seems to be working normally. I removed the back and placed the camera on a light table. I shut the room lights off and fired the shutter multiple times and, perhaps it’s my imagination, but it did look like the may have been some extraneous light bouncing around inside the body. There is a small gap around the end of the factory supplied mask and it looks like there’s a bit of light entering through there. So I’ll most likely tape this up and try another (the fourth) roll.

I’m posting some results here so you can see some of the strangeness happening with this particular camera. I’m really hoping that I got a “bad” one. Being the glutton for plastic camera punishment that I am, of course, I immediately bought another one. I’m hoping to shoot a roll with this “new” camera in the next week or so.

The photos:



















This one is perhaps the most "normal" of any of the 36 images made with the three rolls of film I shot with this camera. No technical difficulties here, just that usual Holga look.




















Here, the image is visible for the most part but there are major light leaks on top and on the left. And I'm not totally sure what's happening with those sun like orbs of light near the top left center of the frame.
I do sort of like this defective image, however.




















These four images are typical of the majority of the frames on the three rolls of film. Thirty one of the thirty six frames looked pretty much like these.
The light leaks on the top and left are pretty dominant and there's even a hint of light striking the film on the right on one of them.
I guess I was shooting trees that day.





















In the meantime, color me skeptical regarding the new Sunrise Holga 120N. And if anyone out there has bought one, I’d love to hear from you.
In the meantime, I'm off to shoot a couple more rolls of film.

10 comments:

  1. Wow, bummer! Thanks so much for the information. I don't even use a mask in the "old" Holga 120N's, and, well, as you know, my pictures don't look like the majority of the ones you're getting with this Sunrise one. Sigh. I hope it wasn't too good to be true.

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    1. I used a very filed out mask for the first two rolls that I shot with this camera. For the third roll, I put the original square factory mask in place. Funny thing is, the roll with the factory mask in place showed no difference.

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  2. Bear in mind the original was highly variable in build quality. I got lucky as mines doesn't leak (yup I know that's a subjective view). Pleanty of 'old' reviews and blogs recommended taping up the camera fully

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    1. Thanks for checking in Alan. None of my previous Holgas (120Ns, 120Ss and Wocas) showed any sort of light leak resembling this.
      I have taped up the inside on this one and will shoot another roll this week. I'm hopeful. BTW, taping the outside seams on this camera made no difference regarding the light leaks.

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  3. Maybe send it to Randy "Holgamods" Smith and see what he can figure out?

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    1. Sending anything to Randy is usually the best solution. :) Thanks for checking in Dave.

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  4. Randy Smith used to finish the inside of the 120n with flocking to eliminate the light reflection issue coming from light bouncing around inside the camera body itself. Sounds like this is the problem?

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    1. Jan, one of my theories is that there seems to be a bunch of shiny stuff on the shutter assembly that would make great surfaces for light to bounce around inside the camera.

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  5. Jim, could you use a black Sharpie on the assembly?

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    1. That's a possibility, Jan. I have definitely learned that this camera does not do well in bright light. One more follow up blog post coming soon.

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